So, I wrote the majority of this blog post last week, just before the first of my launches. I thought better of posting it ahead of the event, but I’ll post it now so you can get an idea of what was running through my head just before this happened. And, of course, I’ll reflect on how the launches actually went…
A book launch.
A book – that I wrote – is being launched.
A book – that I wrote, about my life – is being launched.
The thought makes me
a bitvery dizzy.
A few years ago, if you’d told me I’d be a published author, I’d have laughed at you. If you’d told me that I’d have my memoir published at the age of 30, I’d have told you to get out.
Well, here it is. Tonight, I’ll be sitting on some kind of stage, reading extracts, answering questions, and signing (what I hope will be) a buttload of books for people.
I’ve briefly mentioned before the concept of impostor syndrome – I think many of us experience it to some or other degree. I know I battle with it on a regular basis, and I’ll be honest, the book was no exception.
See, there’s part of me that wondered (or still wonders) just how much of this was serendipity, or coincidence, or chance, and how much was my own hard work. There’s no doubt that I was in the right place at the right time – at the time that Caitlyn Jenner came out, #AlwaysAnastacia was about halfway done. There were 35,000 or so words in the bank. I hadn’t been working towards a specific target – I’d just written about some events and encounters and experiences as they occurred, and it just so happened to add up to roughly half-a-book’s-worth when Cait showed up on the cover of Vanity Fair.
And that was when, prompted by the encouragement of some close friends, I started sending the manuscript to publishers.
There’s no doubt that the timing was fortuitous; anything trans related was a hot topic. Especially if one could put a South African lens to it, in a way that really hasn’t been done before.
I was elated when I was offered the book deal. Thrilled and ecstatic beyond words. Because I knew that it represented a means to get my story out there, to reach a wider audience than I ever could have possibly hoped for on my own.
But, of course, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was because it was my story – my writing, my perspectives, my skill and my talent and my insight – or whether it was because it was a trans story, and anything would do.
I’ll be forthright with you, because that’s what I do on this blog – those doubts still nag at me, in moments of especial weakness. Because that’s part of the human condition, isn’t it? Especially when you’re trans, and you’re already so conditioned to feel not-good-enough, it’s often instinct to try to scapegoat not your failures, but your successes. To blame them on happenstance or coincidence or accident rather than crediting yourself.
I guess here’s the thing. The subject matter is relevant. The topic is hot. It’s something people are talking about. But that doesn’t detract at all from my work. It might have made it easier to get my foot into the door, but at the end of all that, I still had to write the book. And it extends beyond just the book too – because, when it comes to activism, and running workshops, and going on Mandela Washington Fellowships, being trans is my platform. Advocating for trans rights is what I do. It’s part of who I am; it’s not everything that I am, but it’s definitely an inseparable part.
It’s a tricky space to navigate. Because often, as trans people, we fight to not be defined by our identities. To have them acknowledged, but at the same time to not be defined by them. To embrace that part of ourselves without being consumed by it. As I say almost every week, I’m not ashamed of being trans. But also, I don’t want that to be the only attribute of mine that anyone cares about.
As you can imagine, I’ve read Always Anastacia approximately a billion times. Through each draft and revision, each pass through editing, typesetting, all of it. And a bunch of times in between. My perspective is far from objective, needless to say – because it’s my book, and my story, and I gave birth to it, and part of my job as the person who wrote it is to be in love with it. When I wrote this book, I wanted it to be a story about humanity, not a story about being trans. And through all of those read-throughs, that was the question to which I kept coming back – is this relatable?
The book hasn’t been on shelves for very long, and there still hasn’t been very much feedback, but what there has been up to now has been very reassuring. People are connecting, people are relating. People are feeling. It still overwhelms me – especially that part of me that doubts myself.
I’ve said before that my hope for this book was not for it to be a vehicle to fame and fortune for me. I didn’t long to have my face (or my legs) on the cover of a book, I didn’t lust after celebrity. To me, it’s always been a means to fostering understanding and empathy in those who read it. And it was that motivation that empowered me to make myself as vulnerable as I have through writing it.
In addition to that, I realise that in many ways, this is revolutionary. A South African trans narrative, written by a South African trans author, and published by a big, respectable publisher like Jonathan Ball, with media, and publicity, and launches… it’s groundbreaking. It’s a big, bold, important step, and I feel so privileged to be a part of this. It represents so much more than just another book, and the weight of that is not lost on me for a second.
So here I am, just hours before this big, scary book launch. And aside from feeling a bit sickly and under the weather… well, I’m excited. And grateful. And appreciative. I’m proud of what we have achieved, thankful for the support I’ve had in making it a reality, and enthusiastic about what the future will hold.
And, of course, I’d like to thank you. For listening and sharing and reading. For reaching out. For being there.
I can’t believe yet that this is all happening – it’s still very surreal. But I know that it’s big, and that I’m fortunate to be here.
And to have you with me.
And, my post-launch reflections…
I can’t believe it’s over and done. It all feels so surreal. The launches, although they are just a singular aspect of all the publicity that surrounds the release of my book, feel in a lot of ways like the culmination of everything. They’re a celebration of all the blood, sweat and tears that went into Always Anastacia, and an acknowledgment of how this process has reached a conclusion.
It’s been a week since the Johannesburg launch, and nearly as long since the Cape Town one. And I am still floored just thinking about it.
I don’t know exactly what I expected (as I’m sure you could infer from the first part of this post), but the outpouring of support has been dramatic and overwhelming, and I am so very grateful.
Of course, I extend my heartfelt thanks to all those who made this a possibility – the book stores (Love Books in Melville, and The Book Lounge in Cape Town), the whole team at Jonathan Ball Publishers (and a special shout out to my publicist Jennifer), and my wonderful discussants Natasha Joseph in Johannesburg, and Erin Bates in Cape Town, both of whom facilitated such powerful, candid, meaningful discussions.
But most of all, I want to thank you – those who read the things I write, listen to the things I say, and those who took time out of their schedules to attend the launches.
We packed out both venues. I’m talking standing room only, literally. Cis people, trans people, queer people, straight people; we had all sorts. Among you were people I know personally, either now or from before my transition. Friends, family, former colleagues, ex-patients, fellow activists. The whole gamut. But also, a whole load of strangers. And I can’t tell you how amazing that felt.
In Joburg, more than once, the whole audience was in tears, reaching for tissues. Parents of trans children asked questions, trying to learn how to better accept and support their kids. There were doctors in the audience, whom I’d never met, who apologised to me on behalf of the medical profession, for the indignities I faced, as a patient and as a professional myself.
At both launches, I had trans people standing in front of me, staring at me with tears in their eyes, and thanking me for giving them hope. For proving to the world that being trans does not mean we can’t be successful, or that we shouldn’t have hope. I don’t know how to do this justice in words – even now, just thinking about those reactions and those people gives me pause, and brings me to the verge of tears.
To give hope to others is more than I could ever have hoped for, and I feel so fortunate to be in a position to do so. I’m not interested in fame or celebrity – but I am very much interested in giving a voice to the voiceless, and though there are many who are still suffering in silence, each step counts. And these launches were a reminder to me that this is a step that counts.
To meet people, chat to them, sign their books… and to have seen that glimpse of what that brief interaction means to them, is… life-changing. Life-giving.
I wish I could thank each and every one individually, impractical as it may be. But I do want to acknowledge you here and now, and remind you that we do not face our struggles alone. To thank you for making sure that I do not face mine alone.
I am overcome. Totally, utterly, completely. And I am thankful.
And lastly, a media round-up of all the #AlwaysAnastacia coverage so far, in case you missed anything